The Passat is convincing evidence that Wolfsburg is well capable of making a credible rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

It remains to be seen if the market will accept the car in those terms. Our hunch is that most will consider this a plush family saloon rather than a newbie compact exec, but certainly not because it lacks the substance or style expected of the latter.

The Passat's standard steering setup is predictable and linear, but ultimately lacking in feedback.

Inside, it's classier than the new Ford Mondeo and is more relaxing to drive. All the Passat is missing is a bit of charismatic warmth and dynamic verve.

Still, its combination of space, visual presence, apparent quality, sophisticated technology and competitive ownership costs with strong performance, and fairly supple, unwearing handling still set it apart.

For a great many, the Passat will be obviously and unquestionably worth paying above the going rate for – but for enthusiasts, it’s missing something.